Skip to Content

Table Manners

Table manners are important in America, and may be different from those of your country. They are complicated, and you should consult a good guide to etiquette for a complete view.

In general Americans try to eat neatly, without making a lot of noise. If something on the table is out of their reach, they politely ask someone to pass it to them. Food should be lifted up to the mouth. Do not bend over to eat it. Sit up as straight as you can without being uncomfortable. Do not talk with your mouth full.

Table napkins are placed on your lap, folded in half if they are very large. If you are in a small group, it is polite to wait to start eating until the host sits down and begins. With larger groups, you may begin after noting that a few people have begun. You may also begin if the host urges you to.

Use your fork, knife and spoon to eat your food. There are some exceptions, like lobster and corn on the cob, cookies, shrimp, and fried chicken and other foods. Better watch what other people do. If you do eat with your hands, don’t lick your fingers to clean them. Use the napkin carefully. If you have to take food out of your mouth, such as a pit or bone, do it carefully and quietly. It is not polite to pick your teeth at the table to remove trapped food. If you must do this before the end of the meal, excuse yourself and go to the restroom.

Next Section:Making Conversation

Everyday Life: Chapter Home

Life in the USA Home Page.